Whether you’re jetting off to an exciting vacation or prepping for a big meeting in another city, few people relish the packing part. It can sometimes take all your willpower to set aside that time to dig your suitcase out of the closet and spend the energy planning ahead for what you’ll wear in an unfamiliar location. We talked to travel experts to get their top packing hacks take a little bit of the pain out of the process.
Plan in advance
“I always advise clients to pack everything they’d like to pack, and then remove half of it from their suitcase. I find that really helps in terms of figuring out what they really need for a trip, and then they end up just bringing the essentials,” says Bill Rubinsohn of Rubinsohn Travel . He also suggests that a month before your trip, make a list of everything you think you will need and set the list off to the side. A week later, look at the list again and cross off anything that is not essential for your trip. “This will give you the opportunity to add any other essentials that you did not think of before. Taking time to plan what you need to bring for a trip will allow you to remember everything and avoid bringing unnecessary items.”
Pick multipurpose items
“With the exception of underwear and socks, everything must be able to do double or triple duty,” says Janice Holly Booth, National Geographic Author (“Only Pack What You Can Carry”) and a long-time solo adventure traveler. Hiking boots double as “walking around” shoes; a pashmina also serves as a scarf for warmth, a beach cover-up, and an embellishment for an evening out. “I have a super lightweight down jacket that stuffs into its own sack, and that doubles as back support or pillow during a long flight. I never take anything that’s a one-off, unless it’s specialty gear I need that I can’t rent at my destination.”
Neutrals are a must, with a few accessories
Use color to make your basics pop. “I usually go with a three-color wardrobe palette (black, white, and grey/navy) for my clothes, says Janelle Sterling, Founder and CEO of Here, There, Everywear an apparel brand aimed at frequent flyers and travelers. Black is easy because it works day and night and can look dressed up with the right accessories. In warm climates white is my go-to at night as well. You can easily re-wear these colors than add a red scarf or a piece of jewelry to make it look different.
“Pack the heaviest items towards the bottom of the suitcase (near the wheels), and the lightest or most delicate items towards the top (near the handle),” says Jason Donahue, co-founder and CEO of Sidewalk, a travel and local discovery-focused company. This is less about lowering the center of gravity, and more about ensuring your clothes arrive uncrushed and unwrinkled. If shoes are going in your checked luggage, place them in separate bags. He says: “If the pair of shoes share the same bag, they take up more space and are less conducive to playing Packing Tetris.” Lastly, he suggests keeping a foldable day bag in your suitcase. “There are times when I want a day bag to explore a city and I don’t want to use my carry-on shoulder bag,” he says. “I just need something small to hold a water bottle, notepad, jacket, sunglasses, and battery pack for my phone. I now keep a small foldable bag in my suitcase that weighs less than half a pound and takes up no space.”
Button down shirts are one of the hardest things to pack, because they quickly get wrinkled. “To avoid creases in the wrong place make sure to lay the shirt totally flat along the seam lines,” says Dan Miller, president of Mulberrys Garment Care, an eco-friendly laundry and dry cleaning provider in San Francisco and Minneapolis. Another trick for keeping things wrinkle-free and holding their form is to wrap them around a piece of cardboard; Miller says you can get this from your local dry cleaner or office supply store. Lastly, don’t pack your sport coat; instead wear it on the plane. Then if you want to take it off just lay it over your carry one. “This will keep it from wrinkling in your bag,” says Miller. He also recommends rolling casuals and ties: “You can prevent wrinkles in ties, t-shirts, and other casual items by rolling them instead of folding them.”
Keep jewelry safe and untangled
“When packing necklaces, to avoid tangling, always make sure the necklace is clasped,” says Bob Mullen III, owner at Mullen Bros. Jewelers in Swansea, Massachusetts. “Then, place the necklace in a plastic zip-top bag, and zip it closed with the clasp of the necklace hanging outside of the bag. This results in zero tangles.” He also suggests packing jewelry in your carry-on bag as opposed to wearing it. People think wearing it is safer, but you may have to take it off in security and put it in the bucket, increasing the chance of someone walking away with your valuables.
Making the most of your space with electronics
“Invest in a good backup battery — you’ll always have a full charge and never have to fight for space at the airport charging stations,” says world traveler Nicole Brandt, who is Executive Director of Global Orphan Foundation. (She travels 10-12 weeks a year.) “If you’re traveling with a lot of electronics, consider packing a small power strip so you can charge everything in one spot.”
What to do with dirty laundry
“Pack a garbage bag to use for your dirty laundry,” says Olivia McShea co-founder of Livalit Travel. Not only does it make knowing what’s clean or not easier while traveling, but it also makes unpacking a breeze when you get home. You can take the garbage bag straight to the laundry room and then return everything else that’s still clean back to its proper place. Of course it’s not only how you pack, but what you pack, that can make or break a trip. A Merinolux dress is classic, comfortable to wear all day, and odor-resistant as you adjust to changes in temperature. And give yourself a break with wrinkle-resistant fabrics like the Modal blend and our Convoy Utility Short.
What are some of your best time-tested packing tricks? Be sure to let us know in the comments!